Empty hotel beds, despite tourism boom

Record arrivals but decline in hotel occupancy

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Fewer tourists are staying at Cayman’s major hotels despite booming arrival figures, according to new data. 

The Smith Travel Report, which monitors the performance of Cayman’s larger hotels, showed a 2 percent drop in occupancy rates for the first six months of 2014. 

That decline comes in spite of a record-breaking year for tourism in Cayman.  

Figures from the Department of Tourism show a 10 percent increase in visitors touching down at Owen Roberts International Airport in the first half of the year compared to 2013. 

Shorter trips 

Hoteliers suggest the numbers show that visitors could be making shorter trips, while condos and smaller hotels could be picking up a greater share of bookings. 

The report tracks monthly occupancy rates and revenue for a sampling of 1,304 hotel beds – made up of the larger Seven Mile Beach properties – and compares them to similar data across the region. 

Cayman is doing well compared to its competitors, with an occupancy rate of 72.4 percent for the first half of the year, the report suggests. For an average 100-room hotel, the figures show, there would be 28 rooms vacant every night. 

Only the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and St. Lucia are doing better among the 29 countries monitored by the Smith Travel Report, which provides similar data to hotels across the world to help them track their performance against local and regional competitors. 

Thomas Mason, who runs the 119-room Comfort Suites on Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach, said the hotel is bucking the trend and had shown an increase in occupancy as well as revenue over the period. 

He said the overall drop in occupancy, despite the surge in air arrivals, suggests some tourists could be making shorter trips. 

Long-term statistics do show a trend toward shorter stays, with tourists increasingly favoring mini-breaks over longer vacations.  

The most up-to date data, gleaned from Department of Tourism surveys, show the average length of stay for visitors arriving by air decreased from 7.6 days in 2005 to 4.8 days in 2011. 

Revenue increases 

Laura Skec, marketing manager at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, said the hotel had a slight decline in occupancy in the first six months of 2014. But she said this was offset by increases in revenue. 

“Occupancy is down slightly, but revenue per room is up, so overall the figures are positive,” she said. “The Smith report doesn’t include condos, so perhaps they are doing better with the increase in air arrivals.” 

Gaetan Babin, who runs The Reef Resort and is the Cayman Islands Tourism Association director for the condominium sector, said precise occupancy figures were not immediately available. But he said the East End resort was having a particularly good summer and demand was up across the condo sector.  

Smaller or specialist hotels are also not included in the data. 

Keith Sahm, manager of the 52-bed Sunset House dive resort, said the hotel did not report occupancy figures to Smith Travel because they tend to sell rooms as part of dive packages. 

“Our figures are currently about on a par with the same period last year, which we are very happy with. The future looks particularly bright for the coming fall,” he said. 

The data shows the average room rate in Cayman – US$258 – is US$86 higher than the regional average. It’s far from the highest in the region, however. The average room price in Turks and Caicos is listed at US$378, while rooms in St. Lucia go for US$322 and in Bermuda for US$294. 

Seven Mile Beach

Occupancy rates at hotels along Seven Mile Beach are not reflecting the record high number of visitors who have arrived in Cayman this year. – PHOTO: CHRIS COURT

3 COMMENTS

  1. Many people learn how expensive Cayman is to visit. Some refer to Cayman as the second most expensive island with St Bart’s the most expensive. It must be really hard to live in a Cayman full time as a resident!

  2. I’m pleased to see Comfort Suites doing well, they deserve it.

    As for the rest? If you check online most of the big names are holding out for completely unrealistic room rates.

    When friends of mine come to visit I do a private deal for them with the owner of a neighbouring condo – no taxes, no services charges, no hidden extras – and I suspect that’s what a lot of other people are doing now.

  3. Simple, A lot of people are realizing that you can rent a condo or house that sleeps 6-8 people for the same or even less than a hotel room. And with that you get a full kitchen which saves you from having to eat out for every meal.

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